Time for the UAE to flex its 'soft power'

Robin Gordon-Farleigh, the founding partner of UAE-based PR firm Manara Global, says as Dubai prepares to open its doors to the world for Expo 2020, it gives the oil-rich country the opportunity to exert its soft power currency

Robin Gordon-Farleigh, founding partner of UAE-based PR firm Manara Global
Robin Gordon-Farleigh, founding partner of UAE-based PR firm Manara Global

Expo 2020 Dubai will open its doors to the world in October next year, hosting an expected 25 million global visitors for 173 days. This provides a golden opportunity for both Dubai and the wider UAE to flex its ‘soft power’.

Soft power is the term first coined by professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University in a 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. In this, he wrote: "when one country gets other countries to want what it wants, it might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants."

Over this six month Expo period, it will as its overall strapline says be aiming to deliver on  ‘connecting minds, creating the future’ with over 190 countries representing themselves to the global visitors - 70 per cent of which are projected to come from outside the UAE, making it the largest proportion of international visitors in the 168-year history of World Expos.  

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai has rightly set the bar high on the level of expectation, "the event is one of the largest global gatherings that bring together the world’s greatest minds to discuss how we can shape the future’.  This ambition for the success and expectation of what it will create is palpable.

This opportunity to exert its soft power currency for Dubai and the wider UAE includes channelling its values of inclusion, tolerance, creativity, human capital, culture and heritage, and cooperation to name just a few and will also have a significant focus on youth.

With this, going hand-in-hand, with its impressive infrastructure, ease of doing business, logistics regional hub, it makes for quite the opportunity to showcase its wealth of assets for tourism, doing business here and breadth of opportunities for business through its like-minded focused leadership and using all of these virtues to positive effect.

Let us not also forget the 190 participating countries at Expo, each of which whom will present their respective countries soft power assets within their pavilions, each looking to project an image to support their own individual nation objectives to engage with trade, tourism and business opportunities within their countries.

Many countries have moved or are in the process to moving towards utilising their soft power assets to achieve one or a number of their country objectives. One benefit of this is that "smaller" countries when using their soft power correctly, can really punch above their weight.

The results can be so beneficial due to the focused effort, that they are now becoming the norm for many countries who now have public diplomacy/soft power strategies in place.

In our work at Manara Global, we have found increasing interest in our soft power proposition from Governments, but also from the world of business in how their respective soft power assets can be utilised in the right way to channel deep impact, leading to success. A demonstrable way to showcase your ultimate purpose – what you stand for - through your soft power assets.

Expo 2020 will be a resounding success for the region as a whole, but with Dubai and the wider UAE shining bright through their projection of soft power, it will result in great pride for the region.

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